Just when you thought it was safe to get really excited about the fantastic possibilities of the Internet again, a dark cloud looms. The Internet as you have always known it is facing a serious threat that requires your attention.
The issue is Net Neutrality. If you’re not sure what that means, I’ll try to succinctly sum up its importance to you.
All of your current Internet marketing plans depend on Net Neutrality. And likely, a lot of what you do online outside of the scope of business depends on it too. Net Neutrality allows everyone to compete on a level playing field and is the reason that the Internet is a force for economic innovation, civic participation and free speech.
So who are the Four Horsemen looking to destroy the Internet as we know it?
The reformed AT&T wants the power to allow big corporations that pay Internet providers for dominant placing on the Web to muscle out startups and entrepreneurs. The little guy will be left in the “slow lane” with inferior Internet service, unable to compete.
Comcast would just love it if they could favor their own services, so you won’t be able to choose more affordable providers for online video, teleconferencing, Internet phone calls, and software that connects your home computer to your office.
Could Big Media partner with companies like Verizon to put bloggers out of business and silence the threat to their content monopolies? It would be simple under such an arrangement to skyrocket the costs to post and share video and audio clips—silencing citizen journalists and putting more power in the hands of a few corporate-owned media outlets.
Likewise, when Time Warner Cable has the ability to steer the choices of your customers (and you) to their preferred services for online banking, health care information, sending photos, planning vacations, etc, your business and your freedom are history.
This is not a conspiracy theory.
The US Congress is pushing a law that would abandon Network Neutrality, the Internet’s First Amendment. Network neutrality currently prevents companies like AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner from deciding which Web sites work best for you — based on which site paid them the most. Without Network Neutrality, the scenarios outlined above are just the beginning. And it will affect people all over the world, not just in the States.
To learn more, and get involved, you can do several things:
- Educate yourself about the issues. Read Doc Searls article from last year on the topic (this is what first alerted me to the issue, and allowed me to spread the word a bit, most notably to Liz Strauss, who took the ball and ran with it).
- Visit the Save the Internet website and blog to learn more, and to send a quick and easy letter to Congress voicing your opposition.
- Spread the word. There’s a huge viral marketing campaign going on right now to spread awareness and galvanize support. Help spread the word with your blog, by email, or come up with a viral video concept. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that if the big telcos and cable companies get their way, grass roots viral marketing will be a thing of the past.
They WILL win if we are apathetic. Do something, or find a way to earn a living that doesn’t involve the Internet.
UPDATE: In a surprise victory, the House Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would require broadband providers to abide by strict Net neutrality principles, meaning that their networks must be operated in a “nondiscriminatory” manner.
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